by Geoff Rand


For those who completed or attempted Open WOD 17.1, you certainly expected the physical aspect of it, but were you prepared for the mental part of it?  In any WOD, but especially the Open WODs, you need to convince your mind that you’re not done; that you have more in the tank to keep on pushing when that little voice in your head starts trying to convince you that you can't go on.

Your mind works in some ways like a muscle, and it can be trained to become stronger and tougher.  If you look at some of the training our special operations forces go through, they all start with a grueling physical component designed to weed out those who tend to mentally give up.  Those who make it through have trained their mind to fight through the physical pain and focus on completing the mission.  This never quit attitude is what makes our elite warriors so successful on the battlefield.

Here are some tips to help you get over that mental wall that you might experience in the next Open WOD or really any WOD.

Clear your mind.  I like to get to the Box 20 minutes early every day.  I do extra mobility and warm up during this time, but it is also my time to let go of any thoughts that I might be dragging along that would be counterproductive to the WOD.  Be it bills to pay, a bad call I went to at work, or unfinished tasks around the house, it all gets left at the door.  This pre-WOD time gets my head in the game to focus solely on what is to come.

Don’t psyche yourself out.  If you look at 17.1 as 150 dumbbell snatches and 75 burpee box jump-overs, of course it sounds much worse this way.  Instead, focus on the positive.  Maybe the positive is the WOD is only 20 minutes long.  Whatever you do, don’t start the WOD off with a negative thought.

Strategize the WOD.  Before you begin, come up with a plan.  Maybe you plan to break up the rounds by a certain number of reps, or you decide to work at a steady pace, but not go all out until you get closer to the end.  Figure out what your strengths are and where the challenging parts of the WOD will be.  Determine how to overcome those challenges.

Don’t watch the clock.  In a difficult WOD, time is going to seem like it’s moving very slowly.  Seeing that not as much time has elapsed as you thought is very demoralizing.  Instead, focus on what you are doing, and concentrate on getting your reps in.  The only time I’d suggest glancing at the clock is to establish your time in your first round if your strategy is to attempt to keep the same pace for all rounds.  Other than that, let the coaches call out the times and keep your eyes off the clock.

Be efficient.  When you start to fatigue, you’re going to want to drop the bar, stop moving, etc.  But all that extra movement needed to pick the bar back up is wasted energy and extra reps you’re doing.  Instead, find natural places to rest, like in the rack position or behind your neck (depending on what the movement is), at the end of a round, or while transitioning between movements.  Also, being efficient means maintaining proper form.  When you get sloppy, you get no-repped and that's just more wasted effort.

Breathe.  One thing I’ve learned from yoga is that when we encounter challenging movements or poses, our breathing becomes shallower and more rapid.  Yoga teaches us to become aware of this and to concentrate even stronger on our breathing to overcome the challenge.  If you lose your focus, start to get lightheaded, or just missed your box jump, take a step back, regain your focus, settle your breathing, and get back in.  Be careful not to take too long, however.  I like to set a number of breaths, like 3-5 during this momentary break and then get back to work.  This keeps me from losing too much time.

Silently compete with someone.  This can be a powerful motivator.  Many times I’ve competed with other athletes in the Box without them ever knowing we were racing against each other.  Out of the corner of my eye I might see them moving on to the next piece of equipment when I’m catching my breath and that is a strong kick in the butt to get myself moving again.


While every WOD is challenging, the pain and discomfort is always temporary.  If you can overcome the doubt in your mind, you might be surprised how much your body is capable of.  Never quit; always find a way to fight through.